nuclear envoy-US Treasury official

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Treasury sanctions chief David Cohen arrived in Seoul Tuesday, saying that he would like to discuss with South Korean officials how to beef up punitive sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test.

Cohen, the U.S. under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, flew to Seoul from Tokyo where he discussed with Japanese officials the same topic. He is set to visit China later this week.

Cohen's visit comes days after the United States imposed its own sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, Pyongyang's primary foreign exchange bank, and four officials responsible for the country's ballistic missile program.

The U.S. sanctions are in addition to the U.N. sanctions announced earlier this month that tightened restrictions on North Korea's financial dealings, notably its suspected "bulk cash" transfers.

In Seoul, Cohen will meet with South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam, during which he is expected to ask Seoul to join the U.S. sanctions, according to South Korea's foreign ministry officials.

Cohen said he and the South Korean government would discuss "a range of possible issues" regarding North Korea's recent actions. However, he said he "will leave it to the South Korean government to decide exactly how they want to respond."

In response to the U.N. sanctions, North Korea has ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric, warning almost daily that the Korean Peninsula is on the verge of a nuclear war.

Even if the U.S. officially asks South Korea to take part in the sanctions against the North Korean bank, a Seoul diplomatic source said it has no effective means to do so, because there is no direct financial dealing between the two countries.

"Unlike the U.S., we have no banking transactions with North Korea, and there are no North Korean financial assets in South Korea," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

"So, it would be difficult for us to slap our own sanctions against the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea."

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